COLUMBIA, S.C. (TheBigSpur.com) - South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner recently took questions from Gamecock Club members, to address a variety of topics.
The video, which was hosted by Gamecock Club CEO Steve Eigenbrot, was released on the university’s YouTube account on Monday. Obviously, the status of the upcoming football season was among the topics he discussed.
Tanner and other administrators across the SEC continue to variety of “different models,” as they wait to make a league-wide decision about the 2020 season.
“(SEC) commissioner, Greg Sankey, his leadership in the Southeastern Conference, our presidents and chancellors in the SEC have been involved as well, so we’ll be prepared,” Tanner said. “We would love to continue and play our 12 game schedule, starting September 5th against Coastal Carolina. Should we have to pivot, we will be able to do that with different models that we have. You realize that some conferences, some schools have already come out and made decisions.
“We’ve always thought, even from the beginning, that we should wait and until the lat possible minute, based on what our medical experts tell us - maybe the leadership we get from the governor’s standpoint, because he can control what happens with attendance in our stadium.
“But we wanted to wait until the last possible moment to make a decision and that’s what we’re going to do.”
With that, Tanner noted various contingency plans have been tweaked over the last several months, to be prepared for various scenarios. However, he wouldn’t divulge any of the league-level discussions, as it relates to potential crossover games with other leagues, like the ACC.
Tanner laughed before adding he did not want to get into hot water with SEC officials.
“I would tell you that we have models on what we’re dealing with, from a health and safety standpoint,” he said. “We have models to maybe space out the season. We have models all over the map.
“A lot of people have opinions. A lot of people have shared their opinions with me on what they think we should do. Some people have said, ‘Well, let’s just play in the spring.’ If we knew that there was a vaccine. If we knew that there was medication for this virus, that may be a strong consideration. We still don’t know all the answers. We will move forward in the fall.
“Am I saying that we’re going to play? I’m saying, right now, the schedule has us moving forward, but it could go a variety of different ways. It could be conference only at this point, but we haven’t made that decision as a league.”
Making sure that Clemson remains on the schedule remains a priority. Like everything else, there’s no guarantee that it will happen. It certainly helps that there are other SEC-ACC rivalries among the leagues’ teams.
“We will try to maintain our rivalry game with Clemson,” Tanner said. “That gets asked all the time. It’s not just us and Clemson. It’s Florida-Florida State. It’s Georgia-Georgia Tech. It’s Kentucky-Louisville, so there’s a lot of people that are involved in this type of decision.”
Tanner also said, “If we added games and played more than eight, then there probably could be - will be - some schedule changes, should we go to 10, but there’s all different types of modeling, should we get to that point.”
If there is a season, then there’s the question about fans in the stands. A season without fans would be a financial “strain that we’ve never experienced before.”
“We’ve got television content to look at and we’ve got live games with our fanbase, season tickets and so forth, so there’s a lot of pressure to make our ends meet financially,” Tanner said. “But that’s not the be-all-end-all. The be-all-end-all is the health and safety of everybody that’s watching or listening today, of our fans and donors, but especially our student-athletes and coaches that would be playing, even if there aren’t any fans in the stands. There’s a lot of things.”
Some of the pending decisions are made at conference level, Tanner added. Some are handled internally. Others could come from the state level.
But this much is certain: South Carolina’s athletics department has worked diligently to provided what they believe will be a safe experience, if fans are indeed allowed to watch games at Williams-Brice Stadium this fall.
“We will have all the bells and whistles that you’ve never seen before with ingress and egress and the opportunity for concession that didn’t exist before and the restroom accessibility and the social distancing from that standpoint,” Tanner said.
What could that look like if there is a season?
“To be determined,” Tanner said. “That’s part of the pageantry that we all experience with college football in the southeast on a Saturday. … I don’t have an answer right now with that scenario. I would just tell you, until further notice, and it’s going to be sooner than later, a decision will be made on how we approach the season from an SEC standpoint and the University of South Carolina vantage point.”
Long-story short: No decision has been made, as to whether or not they’ll be required by fans in the stands.
“Masking - it will probably be strongly encouraged to do masking in the stands, should we get to that point, just for safety purposes we will encourage that,” Tanner said. “Will that be mandated? I’m not sure. It may or may not be. We’ll be advised if whether that’s something we have to put into our protocol.
“We’ll be prepared to move forward. … That’s what we’ve been doing these last few months, just trying to make sure we have an opportunity.”